“I don’t have lines I can’t cross when I write for children.”

Gülenay BörekçiEgoistOkur01.01.2016

We know Asli Der from her books of witches and wizards. I love her new book Messed Up. Yes, there were no fantasy features in it, but it’s okay. I personally believe we also need works that talk about real problems in children’s and youth literature. Messed Up talks about friendship, goodness, hope, but most of all, domestic violence. The importance of the work done is better understood, considering that even when we read such news in newspapers, we are choked and sometimes we prefer to turn the page because we can’t tolerate any more…

I can briefly describe Aslı Der’s Messed Up as follows: Ece is the little girl of a family of four. She has an older sister, Selin, who is obsessed with appearances. Her mom and dad are educated people. Mother, teacher, father owns a small business. A beautiful mother, a cheerful father, two young girls studying at private schools; When viewed from the outside, it’s the perfect family picture. If you are one of those who think nothing can be this perfect, keep reading: The father is an abusive person. Of course, this is never shown to the outside, it stays inside the house. As Ece grows up, she becomes more aware of things and begins to question her father, mother and sister. While she is overwhelmed by the abuse she witnesses every day, Cem who has just moved to the apartment building, enters her life. Cem is a young man who reads, thinks, but does not know what he really wants, even though he is preparing for the university exams. In the basement of the apartment, they shut their ears to the chaos of the outside world and begin to talk about real problems and support each other. We talked to Aslı Der about her book…

I love “Sheroks the Little Witch” series, but this book is very different…

I also enjoy fictionalizing fantasy stories for ages 8-12. However, when they get older, it is necessary to talk about real life with children. Because the world they live in turns into a different place with adolescence for them; The complexity of relationships, everyday worries, troubles of the grown-up world suddenly appear. At least that’s what happened to me. The questions I asked, the subjects that caught my attention had changed, and the texts I enjoyed reading had changed. I think one part of me is always in a rush to produce for “the reader Asli”…

The feeling of “I am not alone” is very important to all of us. But I think it’s even more important in books written for children and young people. How did the story come about?

I grew up in a happy family without quarrels, no noise. I went through my adolescence years with little pain, at least I didn’t experience major traumas in the family. And for a long time I believed that everyone else’s life around me was like mine. Injustice, malice, violence, discrimination, war, unrequited love, desperate illnesses were in books, real life was less painful. That’s what I thought. Then there came my adolescent period. That’s when I started to realize that each of us was a candidate to have troubles as well as happiness, and that none of us was superior to the others. The evil was close to me as much as it was close to others, and the disasters came indiscriminately. On the other hand, I was lucky, the books had prepared me for this truth. I saw this: Wherever we live in the world, even if the houses we live in, the continents, and the languages we speak change, we are all thrown into similar moods and share similar stories. We are all at the same distance to being in the news.

How did this realization help?

The moment you realize that what you regard as “the other” is no different from you, your view of life changes; loneliness, despair, the darkness you fall into diminishes… As I said, with the effect of the books I read in those years, I was able to answer many questions that were spinning in my head. After all, if children and young people grew up leaning more on literature, we would live in a completely different world, I am sure of that. The story of Messed Up tells us that we are not different from each other, that everything can happen to each of us, good and bad, and that we can find the strength to cope with those within ourselves and with the help of friends.

You speak of something called “noisy silence.” What exactly do you mean?

As a society, we have come to play three monkeys. Today’s society creates a radiant perfection based on appearance and alienates every individual and every situation outside of it. It is a virtual perfection, yet it is accepted in all societies. Everyone is sharing their happiest, most influential, most flawless photos by filtering them in the virtual world. Yes, we are very sorry for that “unfortunate other” that we see on the screens, who is in the middle of a war, but we are afraid that it will disrupt the perfection of our own lives and disrupt our order. There are also those who are afraid of violence and oppression. We are not good at making noise. At the keyboard we’re all kings, but we avoid reacting in real life. We do not want to sacrifice our own little order of things. And this encourages those who use oppression and abuse. Think of Messed Up; If the mother had reacted sooner, Ece’s story would have been completely different.

Do you have any lines you don’t cross? What should be considered when explaining abuse to children?

I can cross any line when I type. I think every topic can be told to children, young readers, regarding abuse, including violence. However, it is necessary to choose the words correctly and do this with a construct that will enable them to reason properly. While doing research for the book, I read in detail that violence against women and children has increased tremendously in recent years in our country. Even more painfully, I noticed that this situation was underestimated in our society, even almost normalized. However, we must quit being silent and react to abuse; We must read, write, speak, and make sure that everyone around us reflects on this problem. Not just one day, every day! I personally believe that every human system can only be corrected by a human. If we are all against violence, the situation will of course change.

I will also ask about the comforting side of this story …

No matter how difficult what we are going through, and even if our lives seem to have turned out to be inextricable at times, we feel stronger if there are people who approach us, listen to us and try to understand us. In the book, Cem’s presence is a comfort to Ece and Ece’s for Cem. This is the only point that comforts me in this story.

If I say that one of the ways to fight against violence is literature…

I definitely agree. I think the first thing that a person should do with care and attention throughout their life is to exist as an individual. Being human should not be just breathing, living in the inevitable flow of time. If you do not pursue certain virtues, your life also becomes meaningless. There is also this, sooner or later we are left alone with our conscience. At such moments, the situation for those who built themselves up, very carefully, and those who destroy everything around them, is probably not the same. Literature, choosing our own building blocks; it offers us endless possibilities to develop a different kind of relationship with violence, war, injustice.

Will you write for adults too? I am not asking this because I am downplaying children’s literature, just because I think adults also need to feel that “they are not alone.”

Actually no. It’s more interesting to me to be present in the early years of the relationship that the reader establishes with literature.